Sunday 27 July 2014

World of Tanks: Today in History: First Battle of El-Alamein

On July 27th, 1942, the Allied forces under the command of Claud Auchinleck defeated Erwin Rommel's Afrika Corps in the first battle at El-Alamein.

Italy declared war on Great Britain on June 10th, 1940. In September, its forces, commanded by Marshall Rodolfo Graziani invaded Egypt, a formally independent state that, in practice, was completely dependent on the British. They were opposed by the "Nile" army, commanded by General Richard O'Connor. The Italian successes were negligible, and their offensive stalled.

Then, Germany decided to send its forces to Africa. Help for its ally was a secondary goal. The main objective was to create strategic footholds, necessary for the conquest of more African lands. Germany also wanted to capture the Suez Canal to make life in the Mediterranean difficult for the British.

The Afrika Corps was commanded by the then unknown General Erwin Rommel. His first echelon landed at Tripoli in the middle of February of 1941. The British paid little attention to this landing. This was a poor move on their part, as before Rommel gathered all his forces, he was able to strike at Al Uqaylah, Benghazi, and then Tobruk. Until then, the British have only faced marginally trained Italian commanders, and now they were faced with a very competent German one. As a result, the first few major battles were lost by the British. General O'Connor was captured. Rommel's offensive halted in June of 1941.

From the middle of June to the middle of November, the war in Africa was rather passive. The Germans no longer had the strength to advance, and the Allied commanders needed time to recover and prepare for a counterattack. The counterattack was delivered in November. The British planned to encircle Rommel at the border of Tripolitania, but Rommel managed to evade the trap, earning him the nickname "Desert Fox". In early 1942, Rommel managed to achieve another handful of victories, the most impressive of which can be considered the taking of Tobruk, which the British considered an impregnable fortress.

In the end of June, the Germans approached new defensive lines built by the Allies at El-Alamein. Fierce fighting began, as a result of which, the British, with an advantage in manpower and vehicles, began slowing Rommel's advance.  British aircraft dealt significant damage to the German communications and supply lines.

On July 10th, the British pulled off a successful attack at Tel el Eisa, further reducing Rommel's vehicle count and capturing 1000 prisoners. The main battle occurred on July 27th. Even though Claud Auchinleck made many mistakes that cost the British many men and tanks, Rommel's offensive was stopped. Further attempts to crush the British army were unsuccessful. On May 13th, 1943, the German-Italian forces in Africa surrendered.

Original article available here.

1 comment:

  1. Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.